Charlee LeBeau by C.V. Gauthier wins the Whistler Independent Book Award!

21 October 2020

The Whistler International Book Awards were announced last Friday, and I am delighted to report that C.V. Gauthier’s Charlee LeBeau and the Gambler’s Promise has won the award for fiction! Congratulations to Cindy for a very well-deserved win.

One of the judges had this to say:

This is a rollicking adventure of the wild west, packed with tall tales of treasure and romance, tragedy, and the dark deeds of villains. But this is also a deeper story about a young woman struggling with loss and finding, in her grief, the ability to not only cope, but to forge her own identity and independence, even in the face of cruel societal norms that force her to hide who she really is. C.V. Gauthier is clearly a talented writer.

Her next book, Charlee LeBeau & The Salish Wind will be released in February 2021. For holiday pre-sale deals and to be apprised of other occasional event news, sign up for her Reader’s List at https://cvgauthier.com. I have.

Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise (2019), by C.V. Gauthier

15 October 2020

Hopefully no unforgivable spoilers, but this review does involve plot summary.

Charlee LeBeau & the Gambler’s Promise promises to be one of a trilogy; Charlee LeBeau & the Salish Wind is due out February 2021. I can’t wait! Those of you who follow my blog will remember my rants about both series fiction and cliff-hangers. Charlee LeBeau, although the first in a yet-incomplete trilogy, still satisfies. C.V. Gauthier manages to leave the narrative in a place where her readers are both reassured and yet anxious to read on. This is a difficult balance to achieve.

Charlotte—Charlee—LeBeau is the daughter of a Métis ranch foreman in Sonoma, California, in the mid 1850s. Highly intelligent, she tutors the ranch-owner’s son—her best friend, Jake Miller—in mathematics. His interest lies more with governmental history and policy (which I am guessing will become significant later in the trilogy). Charlee’s affinity for numbers, on the other hand, is a life skill she draws on throughout this first novel.

Life on the ranch is complicated: both wonderful and fraught for a fourteen-year-old girl. While friends with Jake, as her father is with his, she is taunted by his younger step-sister, Bernadette, and denigrated by his step-mother. Her father and her surrogate mother, the African-American cook, Miss Molly, help to guide the headstrong, mercurial Charlee as she begins to experience the injustices of society: the injustice preventing her father from an open relationship with Miss Molly, the injustice of the power The Missus wields, the injustice of young Bernadette’s jealous taunts and lies. The situation between Charlee and the female Millers grows progressively worse, and when Charlee’s father is killed in an accident—trying to save Bernadette from being trampled—Charlee is left with little choice. No longer welcome on the ranch, bitter and angry at having her father taken from her, Charlee feels abandoned by all except Miss Molly. With few other options, despite misgivings, Charlee chooses to move to San Francisco with father’s brother, Uncle Jack, who promises her an education.

“Papa had no use for Uncle Jack. Going with him would mean leaving everything I’d ever known. … I fought to balance myself between opposite forces. Staying and leaving. Work and school. Grief and joy.” (122)

With the promise of an education, the knowledge of some personal funds from the sale of her father’s estate, and a generous gift from Mr. Miller, Charlee’s future does not seem all that bleak.

“Don’t like this one bit,” Miss Molly tells her, though, as she prepares to leave, “you going to the city with Mr. LeBeau. Don’t care he’s Luke’s kin. … I got a bad feeling, you going to San Francisco with him. I don’t like him one bit.” (142-43)

“That part made me nervous,” Charlee admits. “Miss Molly was usually right when she had one of her feelings.” (143)

At least we were warned.

The hardship of Charlee’s life in the city is thus, although harrowing, not unexpected. Here I think is where Gauthier’s sensibilities and writing ability really come to light. We are given a troubling yet honest glimpse into the dangerous, illicit world of the San Francisco docks in the 1850s, and the struggles Charlee has with a drunken gambler for an uncle; with hiding her gender, working as a stable-boy to feed herself when her uncle won’t; with the simple act of walking safely from their hovel of a room to the stables and back every day. The life of the docks was truly multicultural, and in the 1850s that meant prejudice and discrimination leading to conflict and abuse. The book’s strength is founded on more than just good research, though: Gauthier’s description is highly evocative, her narrative solid and convincing. The hierarchy of class and culture and race, the little details of characterization, give a richness to the narrative that makes the reader really feel the atmosphere of Charlee’s world. And her isolation. Despite that some people she encounters do help her—mostly the disenfranchised, like herself: the African Americans, the Chinese, other immigrants—Charlee has no one she can trust. Her final interaction with Tubby, the stable owner, shows how really alone she is. Despite her help with his accounts, and preventing him from signing a exploitative lease, she—and thus the reader—is honestly uncertain of her position when he comments that her uncle “forgot his niece when he blew town” (250). I’m not expressing well the power of that moment, when we think that Charlee has found a safe space, and her confidence is ripped away with her disguise. At her parting, Miss Molly had told Charlee: “You have trouble with Mr. LeBeau, you find Amos [her brother] straight away. Promise me you will” (143). In the end, finding Amos, Charlee’s only viable option, turns out to be not only complicated but dangerous. Seeking help from Jake, who she had located but been too proud to approach, she prepares to meet with Amos and beg to head north with him on the Salish Wind.

There is, of course, much more going on, much more that Charlee learns, including how to cheat at gambling, the use of gunpowder in fireworks, and the law governing mining shares in British Columbia. As she moves towards an uncertain future, we are confident that she has learned well, and will do well. The self-confidence developed through the hardships she has survived alone is complemented by the realization that her pride has made her more alone than she needed to be.

“Blame had never gotten me anywhere but into spirals of anger and frustration. No wonder Papa had wanted me to learn forgiveness. I finally understood why. I wasn’t quite ready for it, not totally. But I could see the top of its sail on my horizon.” (295)

I look greatly forward to seeing where the Salish Wind will take her.

Charlee LeBeau by CV Gauthier is a finalist for the Whistler Independent Book Award

I was given CV Gauthier’s Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise to review far too long ago, and then got side tracked. But I finished it yesterday, and will review it soon. Meanwhile, a friend forwarded me this email from the author, as the novel is one of five nominated for the Whistler Independent Book Award. There are three Zoom sessions to check out. But more than anything, read the book! It’s phenomenal.

 

 

 

 

Hello everyone,

As many of you know, Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise is a fiction finalist in the 2020 Whistler Independent Book Awards (WIBA). The winner will be announced on Friday, October 16 at the Whistler Writers Festival, a virtual event this year thanks to Covid-19.

All the events will be held using Zoom. (If you don’t have Zoom, you can download it here for free. https://zoom.us) Here are 3 sessions of interest:

Thursday, Oct 15, 5-6 pm Reading Event Part 1 Opening Showcase I’ll be reading and doing Q & A via Zoom along with the other 5 WIBA finalists. It’s FREE but you have to register: https://festival.whistlerwritersfest.com

Friday, Oct 16, 6-7:15 pm Literary Cabaret The winner of the WIBA fiction and non-fiction awards will be announced at the top of the show! This is a fun event of live music and storytelling. Tickets $10 https://festival.whistlerwritersfest.com

Saturday, Oct 17, 4-5 pm Writers of Fiction The fiction winner will join other Canadian authors for this session.Tickets $10. https://festival.whistlerwritersfest.com

While you’re visiting the festival website, check out my featured blog post at https://festival.whistlerwritersfest.com/blog/

Finally, pass the word along to anyone you know who might be interested. I’ll post breaking news on my website https://cvgauthier.com on Friday night. To stay in touch about the release of my next book, Charlee LeBeau & The Salish Wind, and to catch holiday pre-sale deals and other occasional event news, sign up for my Reader’s List at https://cvgauthier.com I hope to “see” you at one of the sessions at the Whistlers Writers Festival. Keep your fingers crossed for Charlee!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cindy

C.V. Gauthier – Author “Charlee Lebeau & The Gambler’s Promise”

FINALIST for Whistler Independent Book Awards 2020!

Buy the book at https://cvgauthier.com and through all online book retailers.

Faster than Truth (2019), by K.L. Denman

3 February 2020


Before I begin my rant, know that 1) I think K.L. Denman’s Faster than Truth is well worth reading, and 2) M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) is even more fabulous, and a far more profound consideration of our complex society than this review suggests. (I really need to write a better review of Feed, but that is a much longer project, best put off until another day.) I link the two titles because both deal with a society in which technology—specifically media and digital propaganda—have become a concern. Feed is a future dystopia; Faster than Truth is set in our current world.

Faster than Truth: The Review

It’s not an easy task, making a far-less-than-ideal protagonist sympathetic; and I’m struggling with how well I think K.L. Denman does so in Faster than Truth. Unlike Titus—the protagonist of M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002), and the epitome of self-absorbed adolescence—Declan admits his culpability, and ultimately forms an understanding of himself and his world that allows us to feel hope for the adult he will become.

Initially, though, I felt like smacking him. Declan is in many ways a normal, impulsive adolescent, but he grates on my nerves: the hypocrisy between his self-satisfied attitude towards journalism and his actions seems like poor characterization. He expounds high ideals of journalistic integrity and yet publishes a story based on a photo of a private email, which he knows is not the complete communication, without checking any facts; the incongruity seems too great. Then I remembered that he is an adolescent, and I remembered, too, how unthinking teens can be—including myself. But Declan is clueless on so many levels. His friend Ravi is a far more insightful character. Her eye-rolls and sarcastic comments are a foil for Declan’s obtuseness, and give credence to Declan’s ability to grow into a deeper understanding as the novel progresses. Still, I wonder how a girl as artistically talented and thoughtful as Ravi could be attracted to such a shallow, self-absorbed boy as Declan appears to be.

Perhaps because of his willingness to accept the responsibility for his actions and try to set things right, Declan does reach a better understanding—unlike Titus, whose friend Violet dies as a result of the sociopolitical forces that she stands up against.

More importantly than Declan’s growth as a character, the message that Faster than Truth presents is essential knowledge for everyone in our society today. Once a message—or photo—or comment—is uploaded into the digital cloud, there is no way to retract it. The damage is done. The onus is upon us all, not just the news media, as Declan learns, to be careful with what we publish, what we say, and what we believe. Without preaching, Faster than Truth informs readers of the need to be aware of the biases in what they read online, whether from individuals or the news media. That lesson, more than anything, makes me wish all students—all people—could read Faster than Truth and internalize its message.